Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Michael Ferkin

Committee Member

Emerson K Bowers

Committee Member

Ann V Hedrick

Committee Member

Michael L Kennedy

Committee Member

Matthew J Parris


Evolution works on the variation present in a population and that variation is the individual. But, what makes an individual? Part of this is the physical and genetic individuality, but for animals a large part of their individuality comes from the consistent behaviors that they express that are different from others. These behaviors can be developed innately, such as those that are considered ‘personality,’ or learned through their experiences. These effects compound each other and will impact the fitness of each animal. Additionally, the individuality of other organisms can be vital information. If individuals vary in behavior, then the appropriate response to those individuals will also vary. Across four studies, I examine the development of individuality and the response to individuality in meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus. The personality traits of meadow voles developed separately across their lives. Voles became bolder and more exploratory but maintained their activity as they aged. These personality traits also varied in their consistency. Exploratory voles became more repeatably exploratory as they grew older but became less repeatably bolder. For another behavior that voles perform, the nesting site choice, individuals and their siblings chose to build their nests in the same places after weaning. However, this site choice was not predicted by the site of their natal nest. Meadow voles also have the capacity for recognition of the individuality of heterospecifics. The voles could discriminate between the odors of different individual cats but considered the odors from different glands on a single cat as the same. The capacity to recognize other individual voles is well known, particularly in the context of mate choice. I found that, at a population level, the choice of a preferred type of individual did provide reproductive benefits to those pairings. In summation, individuality has a role in the ecology of the meadow voles. Use of the individuality in others and the individuality of themselves may provide voles with a greater ability to survive predation and achieve greater reproductive success.


Data is provided by the student

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access